Parked at the bottom of the local Audi price list is “R8 Spyder”, which is actually positioned at the top of the automaker’s model range.
Similarly, the kind of driver who can afford one has probably reached the top of the corporate totem pole and is relaxing in his penthouse at the highest point of a freehold ivory tower.
For the driver who lives in a leasehold condo and is still climbing the career ladder quickly, Audi has a ready alternative to the R8 Spyder – the TT Roadster, which is less spectacular but still sensational.
It costs a quarter-million bucks, but the buyer would “save” more than $600,000 because he didn’t/couldn’t buy the R8 Spyder instead.
The TT Roadster delivers more bang for the buck, too. Mathematically, Audi charges $1106 for every horsepower and $687 for every Newton-metre provided by the 2-litre convertible, compared to $1605 for every hp and Nm developed by the 5.2-litre R8.
The TT’s four cylinders are also more cost-effective at $63,000 a pop, versus $86,000 for each of the R8’s ten cylinders. And the latter’s 5.2-litre engine capacity attracts road tax that is almost five times more than for the other Audi – $5834 versus $1194. Using our roads in the Roadster is so much cheaper than hitting them in the Spyder.
Thanks to the TT’s much smaller motor and the wonders of modern turbocharging, it is also a far more efficient burner of fuel than its naturally aspirated bigger brother, which thrives on revs and therefore needs plenty of petrol to quench its thirst. It also prefers 98-octane, unlike the TT which accepts lower-priced RON 95.
Burning rubber is more efficient in the TT, too. It has quattro all-wheel-drive, like the R8, but plays a different paw game.
Over the same patch of tarmac, the TT would nip and zip, whereas the R8 would bite much harder, grip ever tighter and rip along so rapidly that the TT suddenly seems no faster than the MRT.
The Roadster feels lighter on its treaded 17-inch feet, though. The car is lighter than the other convertible, by about 300kg (equivalent to having three co-drivers on board, two of whom are hanging onto the rollover bars of the compact two-seater), and quite a bit smaller.
These advantageous attributes help the TT to handle (or mishandle) corners with gusto and manoeuvre through a series of road bends with bravado. Tackling corners and manoeuvring through bends in the R8 involve bravery, too, albeit from the driver rather than the vehicle.
People who are braver than my persona behind the wheel might report, after driving the thing to within an inch of its life in the fast lane, that the R8 is supercar-super and as sharp as a scalpel.
To this conservative driver who isn’t particularly brave, the Audi is a radical jab of high performance that pummels the streets of Singapore into submission and punches V10 holes in the argument that Italians craft superior supercars than Germans.
Ironically, there’s some Lamborghini in the Audi, whose exciting engine is shared with the Lambo Huracan Spyder.
Naturally, the Italian machine offers even more power and glory, since it’s the exoticar cousin with prestigious Raging Bull emblems and a price tag of over one million dollars.
Incidentally, the 10-pot engine has a (Green) party trick – deactivating one cylinder bank at low to intermediate load. Operating as a sort of 5-cylinder doesn’t turn the R8 into an R4 with double the fuel economy, but it does bring the car “closer” to the 4-cylinder TT.
The two siblings remain far apart in terms of styling.
One has a little engine placed ahead of the front bulkhead, while the other has a massive engine mounted behind the rear bulkhead. One has numerous slats in the nose, while the other has honeycomb vents everywhere. One squats on the asphalt, while the other sits on it and has a roofline which lies 111mm nearer to the blacktop.
One is a clean chunk of Vegas Yellow and the other is a busy wedge of Ara Blue. Their Audi-family design links are limited to the four rings on the bonnet, the silver fuel cap and the brilliant LED headlights.
There’s a greater and consequently costlier scope of customisation available for the R8, ranging from glossy carbon elements to a $45,000 set of carbon-ceramic brakes, which cost just a bit more than the fancy-upholstery option.
Free of charge is the choice of four colours – red, brown and two shades of black – for the R8’s hood. The TT’s soft-top can be either black or grey.
With the fabric canopies erected overhead, occupants would be better insulated/protected from the elements and traffic disturbances in the R8, which converts into a more cocooned coupe than the TT.
The TT’s top has a thick fleece layer on the inner lining and a snug fit over the windscreen frame, thereby providing good insulation/protection, but it isn’t as good as the R8’s excellent cloth canopy.
The R8’s conversion between hooded and alfresco is theatrical, too. It’s like Iron Man performing a ballet in The Nutcracker – dramatic, robotic and over the top.
The fantastic electro-hydraulic performance takes 20 seconds, which is twice as long as the time taken by the TT convertible to convert.
Both rides can drop/deploy their roofs on the move at speeds of up to 50km/h, which is useful if the weather changes or the driver wants to multitask for whatever reason.
In open-air configuration, the two Audis transport the driver and passenger directly into the heart of the action. The engine sounds and exhaust notes are heard so clearly (especially with the drive select in Dynamic mode) , the surroundings become so interesting, while bus fumes and bird dung have never been more threatening.
The 540hp/540Nm Spyder is significantly more action-packed than the 230hp/370Nm Roadster, of course. Your hairdo gets messed up in either topless vehicle, but the R8 does it like a powerful localised cyclone under your computer-control and the TT does it like a high-power hairdryer made in Germany.
The R8 storms from 0 to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds. The TT turbo-charges from 0 to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds. Both cars use dual-clutch gearboxes with lightning-quick gearshifts, but the R8’s 7-speeder adds thunderstrikes to the well-greased lightning.
Restyling your hairstyle en route is fun in the TT Roadster and huge fun in the R8 Spyder.
You could manage the air stream/turbulence with the powered windows (the R8 is equipped with a third, rear pane that functions as a wind deflector and noise barrier), or simply sit lower/higher in your seat, or maybe adjust your headgear.
Both cockpits are Audi’s “virtual” affairs with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The infographics are high-res and the infotainment functions are low-stress. The automatic air-conditioning is very effective in both cabins (enclosed or exposed), complete with extremely attractive controls.
All the seats are splendid – supportive, sporty-looking and covered in comfortable leather. Both dashboards are beautifully built, but the R8’s is probably more beautiful to the petrolhead.
These are two-seaters which are meant to be selfish rather than spacious, but you can stash your phone, wallet and random loose items here and there. Stowing two or three backpacks is easy with the TT Roadster, which has a 280-litre boot that doesn’t lose precious capacity to the roof system, but it’ll be difficult squeezing the same backpacks into the R8’s oversized “glovebox” under the bonnet.
Anyway, the things you bring along are much less important than the thrills you feel with the TT Roadster and R8 Spyder. Go for a spin in Audi’s divine wind turbines and get blown away in wonderful ways.
Audi TT Roadster 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1984cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 230hp at 4500-6200rpm
MAX TORQUE 370Nm at 1600-4300rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 161.4hp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100km/h 5.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h (governed)
CONSUMPTION 14.9km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 154g/km
PRICE INCL. COE $254,480 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 (A)
ENGINE 5204cc, 40-valves, V10
MAX POWER 540hp at 7800rpm
MAX TORQUE 540Nm at 6500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 314hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100km/h 3.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 318km/h
CONSUMPTION 8.5km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 277g/km
PRICE INCL. COE $867,080 (after $20k VES surcharge)